Marci Robles ’93 was a four-year coxswain on the men’s rowing team at Boston College and always wanted to coach men’s rowing at the collegiate level. In August, she was named as the new men’s rowing head coach at Jacksonville University, a Division 1 school.
“I am very proud of all that she has accomplished,” said her mother Martha Robles, “but especially that she has accomplished her dream.”
Marci had been on a men’s team in college and was comfortable around male athletes; but it wasn’t until she noticed and learned more about the decreasing number of women coaching collegiate athletes that her attention turned to coaching men’s teams.
“I know plenty of men who coach women, and it just didn’t make sense to me that there are so few women coaching men,” she said. “So that ended up turning into a goal of mine.”
After college, she coached a freshman team at her alma mater, The National Cathedral School, and then worked two seasons at Georgetown University as an assistant coach during the Hoyas 2009-2010 season. As varsity lightweight assistant coach, she developed Georgetown’s walk-on rowers into athletes that were eventually able to contribute to the program in the EAWRC and IRA Championships.
She then went on to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington for three seasons where the Varsity 4+ team she coached in 2013 won gold at the WIRA’s and West Coast Conference Championships, and placed 16th in the nation in its inaugural bid to the NCAA Championship.
Marci says she fell into coaching by accident when she was an Associate Teacher at Beauvoir and was approached by Ted Haley of St. Albans to coach the freshmen at NCS. “At the time I knew nothing about coaching and was ready to be done with rowing, but he talked me into it,” she remembers. Working with him had a huge impact on how she approaches coaching today.
It’s a sport that requires power, endurance, focus, finesse and aggressive composure, and getting nine people to do all of those things well takes years of practice and the bond that’s formed, “is immeasurable,” she said. Of course, being out on the water, seeing spectacular sunrises adds to the love of the sport and makes the rowing experience special. The days when there’s no wind and the water looks like glass . . . “that’s a rower’s dream,” she said.
“Marci is a superstar among her peers,” said JU’s Chief Athletics Officer Dr. Donnie Horner. “Marci is a leader of character who knows how to properly build high-performance teams. She is a perfect fit for JU and the men’s rowing program,” he said.
“Marci knows how to develop speed, and our guys will enjoy the experience,” added Director of Rowing Jim Mitchell.